Seeing others overcome their fears in their own ways is a powerful motivator
By Divine Favour Akin, Youth Engagement Reporter
Editor’s Note: Divine Favour Akin continues her story about attending Youth Camp and the Amputee Coalition National Conference.
Time went by so fast after my first success running using my prosthesis that, before I knew it, it was time to return the running leg. The prosthetist tried to put my leg back on, but I ran away. I had found something and wasn’t going to leave it that easily. I eventually paused because I felt bad that she had to chase me. After all, I was pretty fast.
She put my walking leg back on, and I continued the activities. I felt so motivated and charged I moved on to the next activity, the obstacle course. It consisted of walking or running, ladders and minibars to go over. The most I had ever done was walk, and I didn’t trust my leg to do anything besides that. But I had just finished running, so I wanted to try something else.
Moreover, everyone was so encouraging, from the host to the volunteers and parents to the kids participating in the activity. Also, all the amputees doing the obstacles found their own way to move through them. It was so cool. Nadia, for example, blazed through the courses; she was fast–so fast I knew to get out of her way when she ran back to the line. Hollyn, on the other hand, was gentle. She took her time and got through the obstacles without moving things over. Each person had a unique approach.
After watching them, it was my turn. I was hesitant, but they all cheered me on, so I did it. It took a while, but I eventually finished. I maneuvered through the space in the ladders, lifted my prosthesis over the bar and even did a turn. I was so proud of myself I got back on the line. Whenever anyone went, we cheered on one another and gave each other high-fives when we returned to the line.
After the whole clinic, I was speechless. I pondered everything that had occurred, from the Q&A sessions and meeting Paralympians to running for the first time on a blade and attempting an obstacle course. I had a multitude of emotions.
First, I was slightly upset because I had cheated myself. After my leg amputation, I had stopped playing all sports, even any physical activity besides walking. The worst part was the mindset that it was normal and justified. It didn’t matter how much I wanted to do it, I couldn’t, and I wasn’t supposed to because I had a disability. I had been met with so much frustration from having to adapt to my new body that I had never considered the possibility.
I emphasized my inability and de-emphasized my strength, resilience and willpower. And, even though there were legitimate concerns, I could still do what I loved. I just needed to find another way. Being placed in an environment like mine, I was not forced but motivated and encouraged to do things. The excuses I made became irrelevant when I saw different people, of different ages, with various amputations, doing what they love.
The whole concept of the conference and Youth Camp was empowerment in itself. At the conference, people got to hear about new upgrades that could advance their prostheses and, thus, their ability to function. There were seminars from experts on things ranging from health to advocacy. There were also adaptive clinics like swimming, tennis and, my favorite, running.
At Youth Camp, there were activities we got to engage in. The parents got to share tips. I got to hang out with amputees around my age. That was incredibly relieving for me because I grew up in an environment where I didn’t get to see a lot of amputees. I didn’t feel alone in navigating the issues of being a teenager coupled with a disability. We listened to each other’s stories. Having the volunteers there and organizers, too, it was nice knowing we were supported and cared for. We all also got to take part in the National Conference.
Being a part of it helped me realize I was not solely defined by what I couldn’t do. It also made me question what I was truly capable of. I was grateful to be a part of a community that did just that.
To register for the Youth Engagement Program, visit amputee-coalition.org/events-programs/youth-engagement-program-yep/yep-signup/